Friday, March 4, 2016

The Rise Of Babylon

Habakkuk 1:1-17

“The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.” (Habakkuk 1:1)

Habakkuk doesn’t tell us when he prophesied, but his reference to Chaldeans indicates he wrote around 630-620 BC, about the time the Chaldeans began to rebel against the Assyrian occupation.  He would have made this prophecy about the time Jeremiah started, and before Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah.  His message is similar to what Jeremiah prophesied. 

”O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!  Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.  Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth. ” (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Habakkuk was concerned for Judah because everywhere he looked he saw sin, and his prayers for God to end it didn’t seem to produce any results.   Crime was rampant, and the whole country was divided.  As a result, people ignored God’s law and there was no real justice because wicked men had been able to overrun the righteous and pervert the courts.

“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.  For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.” (Habakkuk 1:5-6)

Babylon and the Chaldeans had been ruled by the Assyrians for nearly two hundred years.  In 626 BC, Nabopolassar began to reunite the Chaldeans, crushing the Assyrians in 612 BC.  Later, his son, Nebuchadnezzar would conquer the entire region.  God warns the people around that he is going to raise them up and give them that victory. 

“They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.  Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.” (Habakkuk 1:7-8)

The Chaldeans took great pride in their two thousand year history and their reputation for culture and education.  They bred the ancestors of our modern Arabians and thoroughbreds.  With such horses their cavalry was able to make swift and unexpected attacks on distant lands.    

“They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.  And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it.  Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god. ” (Habakkuk 1:9-11)

The Babylonians would fight for the shear love of battle, and they would take captives like a strong wind picking up sand.  Under Nebuchadnezzar they conquered every nation they attacked, throwing up earthworks around them and besieging them until the cities fell.   Nebuchadnezzar turned to God, but after his death his descendants turned to the old Babylonian idols such as Marduke, crediting him with the victories rather than God. 

“Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.  Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?  And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?

 They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad.  Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.  Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations? ” (Habakkuk 1:12-17)

Habakkuk recognizes God as the eternal God who has made a covenant with Israel that they will not be completely destroyed.  As a righteous God, he cannot bear to see sin, and has promised correction or punishment for those who persist in it.  He wonders why God allows the things that are happening in Judah to continue, with the wicked taking advantage of the good. 

It was almost like God had turned them into a bunch of fish and the wicked were fishermen catching them.  Some they caught with hooks and enclosed others with nets, then used drag nets to find those they hadn’t already caught.  Because of their success in catching the good, the wicked began to worship the evil that let them catch them because they get rich by taking advantage.  Was God going to keep on letting them empty the nets and do it again?

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